Minister tackles tradition
More women at the helm, and more sensitivity towards women - that is how traditional courts will change if Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana gets her way.
Xingwana, in an exclusive interview with The Times, said she plans to have women as presiding officers in 50% or more of the traditional courts.
A planned overhaul of traditional courts has been derailed by a controversial bill that many civil advocacy groups, and even the minister herself, believe would undermine the rights of women.
"Our concern with the Traditional Courts Bill, as it stands, is that it has not been an inclusive process," said Xingwana.
She said it is fortunate that the minister of justice supports the view that the bill is flawed.
Xingwana believes there is a place for traditional courts, but she wants them to be more progressive.
As the bill will affect those living in the rural areas, she believes women, specifically rural women, needed to be consulted. She said she is moving to have that done.
The bill's lack of an "opt out clause", where a person can choose between a traditional court and a magistrate's court, is Xingwana's major concern.
"In cases of eviction or domestic violence, traditional courts are not equipped or do not have the necessary expertise to handle these cases," she said.
Gender-based violence is also a major concern for Xingwana's department.
The National Council Against Gender-based Violence, headed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, is due to be launched this week.
Asked whether she has had support from traditional leaders, Xingwana sighed, and replied: "Some."